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Grandmother Dear Part 8

"Poor Molly," she whispered to aunty, "she must have been crying so. And do you know, aunty, when Molly does cry and gets really unhappy, it is dreadful. She seems so careless, you know, but once she does care, she cares more than any one I know. And look, aunty." She pointed to a little parcel on the floor at Molly's side. A parcel very much done up with string, and an unnecessary amount of sealing-wax, and fastened to the parcel a little note addressed to "dear grandmother."

"Shall I run with it to grandmother?" said Sylvia: and aunty nodding permission, off she set. She had not far to go. Coming down the garden-path she met grandmother, anxiously looking for news of Molly.

"She's in old Marie's kitchen," said Sylvia, breathlessly, "and she's fallen fast asleep. She'd been crying so, old Marie said. And she had been writing this note for you, grandmother, and doing up this parcel."

Without speaking, grandmother broke the very splotchy-looking red seal and read the note.

"My dear, dear grandmother," it began, "Please do forgive me. I send you all my brooches. I don't _deserve_ to keep them for vexing you so. Only I didn't, oh, indeed, I didn't mean to _mock_ you, dear grandmother. It is that that I can't bear, that you should think so. It was a plan I had made to teach me to be careful, only I know it was silly--I am always thinking of silly things, but oh, _believe_ me, I would not make a joke of your teaching me to be good.--Your own dearest

"MOLLY."

"Poor little soul," said grandmother. "I wish I had not been so hasty with her. It will be a lesson to me;" and noticing that at this Sylvia looked up in surprise, she added, "Does it seem strange to you my little Sylvia, that an old woman like me should talk of having lessons? It is true all the same--and I hope, do you know, dear?--I hope that up to the very last of my life I shall have lessons to learn. Or rather I should say that I shall be able to learn them. That the lessons are there to be learnt, always and everywhere, we can never doubt."

"But," said Sylvia, and then she hesitated.

"But what, dear?"

"I can't quite say what I mean," said Sylvia. "But it is something like this--I thought the difference between big people and children was that the big people _had_ learnt their lessons, and that was why they could help us with ours. I know what kind of lessons you mean--not _book_ ones--but being kind and good and all things like that."

"Yes," said grandmother, "but to these lessons there is no limit. The better we have learnt the early ones, the more clearly we see those still before us, like climbing up mountains and seeing the peaks still rising in front. And knowing and remembering the difficulties we had long ago when _we_ first began climbing, we can help and advise the little ones who in their turn are at the outset of the journey. Only sometimes, as I did with poor Molly this morning, we forget, we old people who have come such a long way, how hard the first climbing is, and how easily tired and discouraged the little tender feet get."

Grandmother gave a little sigh.

"Dear grandmother," said Sylvia, "I am sure _you_ don't forget. But those people who haven't learnt when they were little, they can't teach others, grandmother, when they don't know themselves?"

"Ah, no," said grandmother. "And it is not many who have the power or the determination to learn to-day the lessons they neglected yesterday. We all feel that, Sylvia, all of us. Only in another way we may get good out of that too, by warning those who have still plenty of time for all. But let us see if Molly is awake yet."

No, she was still fast asleep. But when grandmother stooped over her and gently raised her head, which had slipped half off the stool, Molly opened her eyes, and gazed up at grandmother in bewilderment. For a moment or two she could not remember where she was; then it gradually came back to her.

"Grandmother, will you forgive me?" she said. "I wrote a note, where is it?"--she looked about for it on the floor.

"I have got it, Molly," said grandmother. "Forgive you, dear? of course I will if there is anything to forgive. But tell me now what was in your mind, Molly? What was the 'plan'?"

"I thought," said Molly, sitting up and shaking her hair out of her eyes, "I thought, grandmother dear, that it would teach me to be careful and neat and not hurried in dressing if I wore _all_ my brooches every day for a good while--a month perhaps. For you know it is very difficult to put brooches in quite straight and neat, not to break the pins. It has always been such a trouble to me not to stick them in, in a hurry, any how, and that was how I broke so many. But I'll do just as you like about them. I'll leave off wearing them at all if you would rather."

She looked up in grandmother's face, her own looking so white, now that the flush of sleep had faded from it, and her poor eyelids so swollen, that grandmother's heart was quite touched.

"My poor little Molly," she said. "I don't think that will be necessary.

I am sure you will try to be careful. But the next time you make a plan for teaching yourself any good habit, talk it over with me first, will you, dear?"

Molly threw her arms round grandmother's neck and hugged her, and old Marie looked quite pleased to see that all was sunshine again.

Just as they were leaving the cottage she came forward with a basketful of lovely apples.

"They came only this morning, Madame," she said to grandmother. "Might she send them up to the house? The little young ladies would find them good."

Grandmother smiled.

"Thank you, Marie," she said. "Are they _the_ apples? oh, yes, of course.

I see they are. Is there a good crop this year?"

"Ah, yes, they seem always good now. The storms are past, it seems to me, Madame, both for me and my tree. But a few years now and they will be indeed all over for me. 'Tis to-morrow my fete day, Madame; that was why they sent the apples. They are very good to remember the old woman--my grand-nephews--I shall to-morrow be seventy-five, Madame."

"Seventy-five!" repeated grandmother. "Ah, well, Marie, I am not so very far behind you, though it seems as if I were growing younger lately--does it not?--with my little girls and my boy beside me. You must come up to see us to-morrow that we may give you our good wishes. Thank you for the beautiful apples. Some day you must tell the children the history of your apple-tree, Marie."

Marie's old face got quite red with pleasure. "Ah, but Madame is too kind," she said. "A stupid old woman like me to be asked to tell her little stories--but we shall see--some day, perhaps. So that the apples taste good, old Marie will be pleased indeed."

"What is the story of Marie's apple-tree, grandmother?" said Sylvia, as they walked back to the house.

"She must tell you herself," said grandmother. "She will be coming up to-morrow morning to see us, as it is her birthday, and you must ask her about it. Poor old Marie."

"Has she been a long time with you, grandmother dear?" said Molly.

"Twelve or thirteen years, soon after we first came here. She was in great trouble then, poor thing; but she will tell you all about it. She is getting old, you see, and old people are always fond of talking, they say--like your poor old grandmother--eh, Molly?"

"_Grandmother_," said Molly, flying at her and hugging her, for by this time they were in the drawing-room again, and Molly's spirits had quite revived.

The apples turned out very good indeed. Even Ralph, who, since he had been in France, had grown so exceedingly "John Bull," that he could hardly be persuaded to praise anything not English, condescended to commend them.

"No wonder they're good," said Molly, as she handed him his second one, "they're _fairy_ apples I'm sure," and she nodded her head mysteriously.

"Fairy rubbish," said Ralph, taking a good bite of the apple's rosy cheek.

"Well, they're something like that, any way," persisted Molly.

"Grandmother said so."

"_I_ said so! My dear! I think your ears have deceived you."

"Well, grandmother dear, I know you didn't exactly say so, but what you said made me think so," explained Molly.

"Not quite the same thing," said grandmother. "You shall hear to-morrow all there is to tell--a very simple little story. How did you get on at school, to-day, Ralph?"

"Oh, right enough," said Ralph. "Some of the fellows are nice enough. But some of them are awful cads. There's one--he's about thirteen, a year or so younger than I--his name's Prosper something or other--I actually met him out of school in the street, carrying a bundle of wood! A boy that sits next me in the class!" he added, with considerable disgust.

"Is he a poor boy?" asked Sylvia.

"No--at least not what you'd call a poor boy. None of them are that. But he got precious red, I can tell you, when he saw me--just like a cad."

"Is he a naughty boy? Does he not do his lessons well?" asked grandmother.

"Oh I daresay he does; he is not an ill-natured fellow. It was only so like a cad to go carrying wood about like that," said Ralph.

"Ralph," said grandmother suddenly. "You never saw your uncle Jack, of course; has your father ever told you about him?"

Ralph's face lighted up. "Uncle Jack who was killed in the Crimea?" he said, lowering his voice a little. "Yes, papa has told me how brave he was."

"Brave, and gentle, and good," said grandmother, softly. "Some day, Ralph, I will read you a little adventure of his. He wrote it out to please me not long before his death. I meant to have sent it to one of the magazines for boys, but somehow I have never done so."

"What is it about, grandmother? What is it called?" asked the children all together, Molly adding, ecstatically clasping her hands. "If you tell us stories, grandmother, it'll be _perfect_."

Chapter end

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